Monday, December 23, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

ahhh the weekend. it was filled with many adventures and, since we're just a few days before christmas, errands and chores and baking and the like. i was locked our of our apartment for a few hours and made friends with many people in the building, i had dinner with some old co-workers who i had been missing, brian took me to see the nutcracker after a very 'gift of the magi' moment when we both surprised the other with tickets to see the nutcracker (oops!), and we went to one my most favorite bars in new york - filled with surly regulars, a few broken souls looking for some salvation in whiskey, and a whole lot of no-bullshit attitudes. it's a complete dive and i completely love it. but the real highlight of the weekend? the annual christmas dessert party.
we started this a few years ago - a low key night where everyone brings over a different dessert and we just hang out, eat a little dinner, exchange a few gifts, and eat lots of dessert.
my creation this year was a buche de noel! or, as we americans call it, a yule log! it was easy to make but a little nerve-wracking because, hello, you're rolling up a cake. it turned out well, though brian did say it looked a little floppy. and it did. but it's a heck of a good start! so here's to more floppy yule logs in my future.
from tina we got some amazing pretzel bark and gingerbread truffles, while molly stepped it up with an old recipe from her family called martha washingtons. everything was a hit.
of course we took pictures, and giggled, and drank wine because we are women and that's what we like to do. fullstop.
and then we got weird...
...with some bows on our head. outstanding work if i do say so myself.
it's one of my favorite traditions, and it's a great way to kick off this amazing christmas week. i hope everyone had just as much fun - merry christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

on a pumpkin dinner.

it's been so long since i've done a recipe post, so let's break up the talk about weddings with one. this was my first time cooking with pumpkin and i have to say, it was some pretty easy and delicious results. however, working with something like pumpkin or squash can be a little labor intensive, so i chose to make this on a friday night - i had more time to peel and dice a whole pumpkin, ya know. i had this pumpkin sitting in our apartment for a bit and wanted to do something with it, and this recipe is what i found. most of the ingredients are ones you would have on hand, and i like that the onion and pumpkin can keep for a couple of weeks. if things come up in your schedule, no worries - you can always make it in a few days (i always hate it when i buy produce and it goes bad because i run out of time to use it). and for the thyme, remember, you can always use dried thyme or another savory herb if you're in a pinch (rosemary, sage, etc.)
probably the least appealing part of this recipe is dicing the pumpkin. use the biggest knife you have for sure, and again i'll plug my peeler - it made peeling this bad boy look like child's work. like i said, i made this on a friday night, so i had more time on my hands. i got home early, diced it up, and sliced my onion very thin before putting them into the refrigerator. then, when the time to get cooking, they were all ready for me. i love it when i have time to prepare ingredients like that, breaking up the cooking process always makes it seem to go faster.
the first step is to caramelize the onions in some butter with a little salt and pepper - about 15 minutes. when that's done, set them aside.
the second step is to cook and soften the pumpkin in the same pan - add a 1 1/2 cups of water to the pan, the pumpkin, and a few thyme sprigs, partially cover and cook for about 8 minutes, perhaps a little less, until the pumpkin is softened.
then, toss the onions, pumpkin, thyme leaves (in addition to the thyme cooked with the pumpkin), cheese, and some butter in with the pasta, which should have been cooked in a separate pot while this was going on. before draining the pasta be sure to reserve some of the water it was cooked in - you can use this to toss with the ingredients to loosen up the sauce and help it adhere to the pasta (i used 1/2 a cup). you'll also see i used cavatelli since it's what i had on hand, instead of pappardelle. it worked just as well for me, so don't worry about the noodle type you use for this dish. any will do.
serve with a little more cheese or black pepper as a topping, and a savory, warm winter's night dinner is your reward for you and your peeler's hard work. enjoy! we loved this one.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

on favorite (unseen) details.

or, specifically, these are some things that won’t be captured by the camera. i thought i would share them here.

the family involvement in our ceremony was a big priority for us. outside of our bridal party, the extra tasks for our wedding: readings, special songs, bringing up the gifts, and so on, was done by family. three of my favorite moments came from this, including…
  • my little cousin performing a reading, and as she did a photo from the thanksgiving that i was a sophomore in high school flashed through my mind – we’re both dead asleep on a chair together and she’s only ten months old, nestled into my side. look at us now!
  • my aunt read what is called the prayers of the faithful – essentially just prayer requests that are read at every catholic mass. you’re able to write them yourself for your wedding, and the last request was a prayer for brian and i during which her voice started breaking and she started crying. it was the only time i truly cried during our ceremony, like, almost ugly cried, and i made sure to quickly recover, but damn. sneak attack by my sentimental aunt.
  • my other aunt is very involved with the church and sings at her church often – she played a few songs for the ceremony, most notably “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You”. it’s an old irish prayer and song, and while she played it we kept smiling at each other. moments like that are hard to come by, and i got three in about 45 minutes!
when we started talking about our reception, i begged brian to change into a white dinner jacket. it’s so classy, rarely done, and it helps set the groom apart – i know everyone is very focused on the bride, but hey, it’s his day too! (i also think brian is handsome enough to pull this look off, if i do say so myself). and, of course, it goes with my whole obsession with timeless glamour. after much hemming and hawing he finally agreed – then once he tried it on it was like seeing a conversion. he loved it, and i was so excited for him to wear it. when he changed into it for our reception, nearly every single person made a comment – how handsome he was, how he looked like Leonardo di Caprio, how they felt like they were back in the 40’s, how awesome it was, how they had never seen that before, and so on and so forth. almost every single male guest i’ve talked to since the wedding, which has been numerous, has let out a dreamy sigh and looked at me while saying “and what about that white coat, huh? wow.” turns out men like to be a little glamorous, too. so thank you brian for indulging me - i’ve never done you wrong and i even made you the belle of the ball at our wedding. can’t say I never did nothin’ for ya.
at 10 PM our reception venue brought out pigs in a blanket and little cones of fries. yes. mam.
cake tasting. for the win. forever.
my bachelorette party for the win, forever. (okay, not everything is wedding day related).
one muggy afternoon in july, in the basement of a church, brian and i read letters to each other that the catholic church asked us write, one of the many requirements for the mandatory church pre-wedding counseling session. they were very touching and very personal and filled with hopes and plans and dreams. we were both emotional, and very honest, and it was one of my favorite moments that made clear to me what i want from our marriage. at that moment it was just the two of us, everyday people, fighting the good fight. while i hope we lead long and healthy lives together, there are unforeseen burdens in all our futures. the beauty of your engagement is that it puts reality on hold and, for just a bit, as you are surrounded by so much hope, love and joy from those close friends and family, you can really believe that all your dreams and plans will come true. and wherever the road takes us, no matter what, i will always have that moment - young and hopeful, standing at the edge, ready to take the plunge - to carry me through the unknown hard days ahead. and no photographer, no hashtags, no gowns, no cake, no floral arrangement could ever give me that.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

on a wedding dress.

so, the post i have been dying to write since back in march! and the one subject i will probably always have in interest in: wedding dresses. (note: most of these are photos from friend's iphones, i'll share some more detailed shots of the dress when we get our photos back!)
jen fariello's photo, please give her credit.
i really only have two pieces of advice for wedding dress shopping: look at dresses before to see what appeals to you and what you want in terms of some details, and two: keep an open mind. (also, take me with you. please and thank you).
when i first moved to the city i spent many, many late nights at work (read every night and 3 or 4 AM). some of that involved a lot of down time though - waiting for someone to answer an e-mail, get back edits, and so forth. that naturally leads to some internet surfing and, though brian and i had only been dating for a few months, i have always looked and lusted over wedding dresses. i love dressing up in the first place, but to be able to wear a real gown of gowns and not have anyone think i was insane? oh ladies, ladies i have been waiting for that day with bated breath. since the age of five i think i have browsed picture of wedding gowns because i've never met a glamorous picture i didn't like.
and that's how i discovered pronovias. every now and then i'd see a dress i'd like, but when i perused their dresses i loved at least 70% of them, which made me think i could actually go to the store and try on a few dresses and end up with my dress. and everytime they came out with a new collection i thought - damnit, i wish i was engaged (also a good sign). and, of course, they had a very healthy price range, the exact same to those that you see at bigger bridal stores, so i also knew it was actually in our budget. i so wanted a wonderful dress that was elegant yet had a touch of glamour, but, as my post last week pointed, i didn't want to kill myself over it. i wanted to have fun and soak up the day - i only get to shop for a wedding dress once - so to find the "perfect" dress would have put a damper on that. i knew i wanted a fuller skirt, mostly lace, and preferably not strapless (though i wasn't opposed). and naturally i ended up in something i never would have picked (remember advice point #2!) other than that, i tried not to be too specific, though i knew some details in my mind that i would want and not want. above all, i looked to brides from the 40's and 50's as inspiration. even today those brides look beautiful and classic, as if someone could still wear that dress today and fit in. that aesthetic and timelessness was my main, and huge, inspiration.
i am a lace wedding dress girl through and through - i have swooned over many a lace wedding gown. i always felt satin wasn't for me - i didn't really have anything against it, but i gravitated towards lace dresses. the first three dresses i tried on, all lace wedding gowns, i loved, yet the skirts felt a little stiff to me. (for the record, i would have probably been thrilled to wear any of them - my obsession with glamourous dresses knows no bounds). and perhaps that's because i was looking at lace gowns, as opposed to simpler lace dresses with fewer layers/less crinoline. my aunt picked out what turned out to be my dress, and due to advice #2, i was happy to try it on for her. open minds and good attitudes go a long way.
when i put it on i fell in love with it, but it was so different from what i thought i wanted i kind of did a doubletake on the emotion. the waist was amazing - it cinched me in, was incredibly comfortable, yet slimming at the same time. the bodice incoproated the lace i wanted so bad, and the train, the ridiculous, most amazing train ever, was timeless but so glam. my mom and aunt nearly peed themselves when they saw me in it, and as i did a little walk around the store in the dress, my first thought was: this is so damn fun to wear. because of the train it was such a once-in-a-lifetime dress - i will never, sadly, be able to wear a dress like that again. it had beautiful details - buttons running all the way down, from nape of the neck to the last inch of the train, it was comfortable, it was glam, it was everything. i could overlook the satin because it just felt like me: i like wearing fun, glamorous, feminine pieces. (think i've used the word glamorous enough in this post?) my 17-year-old cousin was also with us, and as i was changing out of it, i asked for her honest opinion - a different generation, a fresh set of eyes. and she was so quiet and looked up at me with these wide, gleaming eyes and said "how could you not? it's amazing". and i was done, after four dresses.
we still went to kleinfeld's the next day, just to experience it. it was fine and the dresses were pretty but nothing made me feel that sure, nothing had the combination of enough of what i wanted to become the perfect dress. a couple of weeks after we got the dress i had some doubts - did we not try on enough? did it go too fast? was i too hasty in making my decision? but i pulled up a picture of my dress, reminded myself how bad-ass it was, and that second-guessing yourself on details of your wedding can be a disaster, causing unwanted anxiety. and so i went forth with the dress, and i'm so glad i did. i can't wait to show you some professional photos when we get them back (and see them myself!)

Monday, December 16, 2013

on my weekend in pictures.

well, we don't have too many pictures from this weekend. but that doesn't mean it wasn't an epic weekend! in fact, it may have been the epic weekend heard across the world because yes - beyonce dropped a full album, along with seventeen music videos friday morning. like no big deal, ain't no thing. it was a bold move to say the least. i have mostly picked out my favorite songs, but i have ALSO recently been scolded by my husband for playing them too often and too loud. looks like we're going to have upgrade from this one bedroom box we call a home. but the weekend wasn't just about beyonce and her numerous, and fabulous, costume changes, it was also about christmas: specifically christmas shopping and christmas parties. tina and i went out to new jersey, as we're wont to do, for both the favorable tax rates, enclosed shopping space, and chain restaurants like the cheesecake factory that provide us city girls with so much joy. it was a winter wonderland out there, and we got some shopping crossed off our list and missed our train a few times due to taxicabs that never came to pick us up at the mall. nothing a "little" piece of cake couldn't fix. we managed to make it back into the city to glam up and head to a christmas party in manhattan where, due to beyonce's overwhelming influence on the weekend, we made sure to be extra fabulous (we are also wont to do this). sunday was spent recovering with a homemade pancake breakfast, christmas cookie making, target runs and a large pizza, pepperoni please. a solid weekend as we head into the real countdown to christmas, which is technically next week! crazy how time flies. hope you're all enjoying the season!

Friday, December 13, 2013

on a planning a wedding.

i meant to post this on wednesday. but i had it on another computer and kept forgetting to e-mail it to myself. so here it is now. so next week we'll talk about weddings some more, and christmas week will be thailand week, no? great.
this is long-winded no lie. when we get back alllllll our pictures we can talk details, but i figured it would be fun to just share my experience, hear about yours, hear about what you think yours might be like, and so forth and so on. this post is to be a bit of an overview – what helped us along the way, what we thought was useful, what mattered the most to both of us and so on. if you’ve been married, join in the discussion! if you think you’re going to get married, join in the discussion! if you hate weddings, move along.

the resources i found most useful…

  • Real Simple Wedding Checklist: it’s pretty easy to know the big things. you need a reception venue, you need a photographer, you need a DJ, etc. but the little things along the way, especially those to keep up with when you’re about a month out, can be hard to keep straight. i loved this.
  • Borrowed and Blue: we're lucky charlottesville is featured on this website, as it’s currently a forum that’s growing. the site features different weddings in different “destination” spots – and thank goodness Charlottesville is considered one of those! all of the vendors we called and spoke to and got quotes from came from this site, except for one. it clearly showcases what real weddings look like in various venues in town, the style of different photographers, what transportation companies exist, what catering companies exist, etc. with the help of this site we pretty much figured out the big parts of our wedding within two weeks of our engagement – it was our north star. i hope it helps you, too.
  •  Etsy: oh etsy. where we would be without you! i’m a fairly anti-DIY bride (more on that to come), and etsy can provide affordable alternatives while still not doing anything from scratch. the vendors i specifically used were wedding for you for the favor bags, pink orchid invites for programs, table numbers and place cards, the small printer for our invitations, and joliemade for some artistic details. for the favors I only had to put peanuts in the bag and tie the bows – pretty much as far as I was going to go on the DIY road. second – pink orchid provided a program template, which gave me a little guidance in cobbling that together, ordering our other paper goods from her gave the event a feeling of continuity, and having someone else print out our place cards was a godsend. you do not want to be writing and printing those suckers out the week of your wedding. finding this little gem of a service was the best - totally worth it. our invitations - i was browsing one day when i was senior in college and came across this shop. i thought his work was stunningly beautiful. i am a huge sucker for a beautiful invitations - i know for many it's something that wouldn't be high on their list, but it mattered to me. and now, years later, we ordered our invites from him. i can't recommend him enough - he's very responsive, i was able to get a level of detail you usually don't (i asked him to shift letters by a mm or two in the proof because i can be that anal and he was happy to do it), and then he sent us our 150 invitations within about two weeks (!) i had a total bride moment and started crying when i first saw them so yeah, he was amazing. strongly recommend this guy so very, very much. joliemade was a great way for me to be creative and someone else to execute it. in particular, i decided putting a banner on the favor table – ‘virginia peanuts’ – was the way to go, but trying to make a banner myself, while possible, seemed like the biggest pain in my butt. while jolie doesn’t list custom banners in her shop, i figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. lo and behold, like many small shop owners, she was happy to accept a custom order and it was a done deal. easier for me, not to say the product turned out a lot prettier than if i had done it. and the 'treat yo self' print on our favor table? something we get to keep forever (and will hang in our kitchen). talk about money well-spent.
  • what’s the most important thing to you? hint: it should be your photographer. while half-joking, we do all have different wants and needs and visions, i’m actually pretty serious. it’s good to figure out with you and your betrothed would call your top 3 are – the dress? the venue? flowers? size? location? where do you want your budget to matter and where do you want to save? so yes, while we’re all different, boy oh boy do we think your photographer should be at the top of the list. our photographer knew locations for us to take pictures, recommended other vendors to us based on her 20+ years of experience in the area, gave us advice on scheduling the reception, and so on and so forth. if you pick a good photographer they will be more than just someone who takes pictures of you that day – they’ll be an unbiased wealth of knowledge who will give you a little guidance in planning your wedding. they can be worth their weight in gold – choose wisely.
  • overall feelings on weddings, by OTBC: between us, brian and i have attended 20 weddings. we really feel like we’ve seen it all: the vegan wedding where the bride came down the aisle in the wheelbarrow, the high-class elegant affair at the peninsula hotel in chicago, cathedral weddings, outdoor weddings, evening weddings, afternoon weddings. we’ve seen the bride’s dress rip, we’ve seen the bride in too much make-up; we’ve seen the groom sobbing, we’ve seen the groom sweat through his suit. we’ve eaten family style, buffets, plated dinners and everything in between. we’ve had the cake, we’ve had the cupcakes, we’ve had the mini-cupcakes, we’ve had the cookies. we’ve been in philly, oklahoma, atlanta, miami, rhode island, italy, chicago, nashville, the bahamas, tallahassee, massachusetts, new orleans, washington d.c. and virginia. (we are going to our first local wedding next year - queens, we're coming for ya.) we’ve taken photos in a photobooth many, many times. we’ve seen a lot of stuff, and this is what i want to tell brides after seeing it all: you are not unique. you are not special, you are not memorable, and you are not fresh and new. so you put candles into mason jars instead of votives – wow. you and approximately 70% of women aged 25 – 35 who have a heartbeat like shit like that. it’s not different, it’s not new, and it does not endear you to me.                                                             ***                                                                                                                                               let's pause, let’s collect ourselves (myself) – yes, that was a little harsh. but what i'm really trying drive home is this: don’t kill yourself for your wedding. while i appreciate good details, there seems a huge drive to become the most creative, have the most memorable, have the biggest wedding, and so forth. it's crazy to watch. i have seen brides stay up to all hours of the night to get all their projects done because their wedding has to reflect them in the exact way they envisioned. i have seen brides go to store after store after store to find the exact right dress, something no one has seen before (newsflash: we’ve seen it all before. take a seat). i have seen brides make color wheels and try on 20 different bridesmaid gowns and call their florist before picking a color for their bridesmaid dress. and it’s just – enough already. it’s a party. it’s a goddamn party. have that mason jar if it’s the aesthetic you want – but don’t break your budget bringing in new and different things to your venue. don’t label each jar with the table number yourself if you don’t have time. don’t think everything needs to reflect you and be done by you and explain who you are as a couple. let your marriage do that. let your marriage let the world know who you are, what your values are, and what you find important. your wedding offers lots of built-in choices anyway: want red flowers, easy. want pork instead of chicken, done. want a black dress instead of a white dress, do it. there are plenty of ways to have your wedding reflect you. don’t go crazy trying to make every detail perfectly you, and please, whatever you do, don’t tell me you’re unique, don’t tell me everything in a small way reflects you as a couple, don’t tell me about what a warrior you were to stay up to 3 AM beading your own sash. tell me 20 years from now that you’re still married. then i’ll be impressed.
*** all photos by jen fariello. please credit her.***

Monday, December 9, 2013

on my weekends in pictures.

hey boo boos - i'm back! i'm back, i'm back, i'm back! as you can see, i took an extended vacation from blogging during the whole wedding/honeymoon/thanksgiving thing. but i'm back. i'm ready to read your blogs again, revel in your lives, and just enjoy the all around merriment that the season brings. over the next two weeks we're going to talk weddings, and honeymoon. and in a few weeks we will probably have official wedding week, i.e. - we get back all our pictures, now here's a hundred for you to look at. if you have zero interest in those topics, i encourage you to use the red x you see at the top of your screen to navigate far, far away. i use the same technique when reading potty training blog posts. maybe someday that will interest me, but today ain't that day. respect if that's how you feel about my topics.
the past few weekends though? we've been getting back into our time zone, definitely took me a good week to stop falling asleep at 7 PM like a grandma. we've been writing thank you notes, though we should probably be more diligent about it. we've been venturing out for a cocktail here and a brunch there - getting back into that new york swing and brushing up on our pop culture in general. we've obviously been decorating for the holidays and picking out christmas trees, braving target and baking pies and wrapping gifts and listening to nat king cole. all these things are happening and it's the best. i hope you're finding the season kind to you - feels good to be back.

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